United States v. Juan Rodriguez Cuya (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Federal Docket

Section 2255 – A prisoner is not entitled to discovery before he files a § 2255 motion.

Juan Alejandro Rodriguez Cuya was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, nine counts of mail fraud, fourteen counts of wire fraud, and two counts of attempted extortion. Cuya was sentenced to 210 months’ imprisonment.

Three years after he was convicted, Cuya filed motions seeking to compel discovery “relating to his underlying case . . . in preparation for filing a potential § 2255 motion to vacate” and to toll the statute of limitations for the § 2255 motion. The district court denied his motions.

Cuya appealed the denial of his discovery motion, arguing that the district court abused its discretion.

The Court disagreed, holding that “[a] prisoner is not entitled to file a motion for discovery . . . before filing a § 2255 motion to vacate.” The Court noted that until a § 2255 motion is filed, there is no ongoing case and the prisoner is simply in a pre-litigation phase. The Court also noted that the civil action under a § 2255 motion is wholly separate from the prisoner’s criminal case. The district court did not abuse its discretion in its denial since “Cuya was not entitled to seek discovery . . . before he filed his § 2255 motion.”

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida

Opinion by Marcus, joined by Wilson and Thapar (by designation from 6th Cir)

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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